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Written by Raymond Nakamura
Once upon a time, Raymond earned his doctorate studying the hydrodynamics of sand dollars. Nowadays, when he’s not employed as personal assistant to his lovely and demanding daughter, he enjoys creating fun and educational experiences in science and history using facts and fiction, words, pictures and whatever else is handy. Follow him on Twitter @raymondsbrain

Do fake wasp nests fool wasps?

Sting Operation

I'm starting to notice the wasps showing up in our garden, and wasp deterrents shaped like wasp nests showing up in the hardware store.

In the Bag

I have used various toxic methods in the past (the most effective being to call an exterminator), I am now in a kinder and gentler frame of mind. Somehow, somewhere, I'd heard about using an inflated paper bag as a deterrent. The idea being that the wasps see the nest as a rival and therefore avoid it. It seems like one of those "it's crazy enough that it just might work" scenarios, but I wanted some scientific evidence.

The Buzz

I've heard many people with anecdotal evidence that it worked. I tried it out once a while ago with mixed results. It seemed that so many other factors could be involved, including the wasps getting full, the weather changing, the food being removed (so the wasps weren't attracted any more). It's not a simple situation because of the many  kinds of wasps, and their  different behaviours which change under various conditions. People also seem to have trouble identifying flying insects when they are frantically swatting them.

Results?

I came across a  commercial version made of material, which looks more like a an actual wasp nest (round and gray). They sent me a paper done for them by a consulting firm, testing the devices near wasp lures and they appeared to be effective. The data, however, only indicated the presence of absence of wasps without identifying the species or counting the number. As well, I still don't know if it is any better than a paper bag.

Expert Opinions

I contacted some entomologists and received responses from five. Only two had even heard of this practise, which was surprising to me. All were skeptical about its usefulness, though a few acknowledged it was an interesting idea. I guess that is the way a scientist is supposed to think about questions. And I guess you don't get big research grants to look at paper bags. One pointed out that he had not seen any evidence that species of local yellow jackets are especially territorial and that the one that makes a nest resembling a paper bag (confusingly known as the  bald-faced hornet) is the least aggressive. Dr. Richard Ring expressed skepticism, but added, "after a 45-year career in entomology I never cease to be amazed by the new things I find out about insect biology and behaviour."

After getting stung in the head last summer, my daughter seems reluctant to participate in any wasp related studies. So if any of you have the inclination to do a controlled test of a paper bag or a commercial device, please share your results.

Comments

As of today, I put up a paper

As of today, I put up a paper bag pretty much exactly as you have in the cartoon bc wasps seem to like one of our patio chairs. I'm watching wasps come & go (they've never been aggressive). I'll monitor this as our summer progresses & let ya know my, more anecdontl, thoughts :-)

I have had two of the

I have had two of the commercial versions hanging for a few years, one in our front porch area, and one one our rear deck, and they do not in any way affect the number of 'wasp' nests. When I say 'wasp' I am referring to the yellow and black striped wasps, as these type are the ones (at least at our house) that make a small cluster nest (I believe these are Dominulus or European Paper Wasps) that looks nothing like the commercial nests. I did not have the fake nests up last year, and maybe coincidentally, or maybe not, we did get a bald-faced hornets nest in one of our bushes that looked exactly like the fake ones. I can't say one way or the other if the fake nests worked or not in terms of the bald-faced hornets, but for the European Paper Wasps, they do nothing. These wasps are definitely not territorial as we usually have multiple nests all around our house.

From what I've heard about

From what I've heard about these nests they're pretty effective. I've setup one at my house before and if you can keep it out of the rain and what not they last pretty long. The kind I had is a flattened paper nest that you pull open and use a metal hanger / frame that comes with it to hang it up. The best way I've heard to use them is put them somewhere visible, but not hanging or floating in the wind (cause they don't do that naturally) - It has to be tight and against a wall/corner for the best realism. As a correction, the fake wasp nest is suppose to look like a fake hornets nest. Which is definitely suppose to repel wasps. I believe the idea behind it is that wasps are very territorial, and in the case of a fake wasp nest, they're suppose to keep about a 700m area from other nests. That being said if there is already an established nest I couldn't say they'd abandon it, not in the first season. When I did this I had a problem with bees burrowing into the roof of my basement through a small hole. After winter came and went, the bees seem to be fairly abesent, and the ones that seem to be coming by are very cautious of going close to the nest.

I just reviewed a commercial

I just reviewed a commercial one on Amazon. It really does work! It took care of the hornet problem I had by my front door. It's shaped like a nest with a wire interior with a paper-like exterior.

I had yellow jackets building

I had yellow jackets building a small nest under my eave over my front deck, just above the BBQ. I hung a fake wasp nest with a few feet of it, and the yellow jackets stopped building the nest within a week. I still see lots of wasps around, which is fine, they are great pollinators, but they have abandoned their nest building in my eave. If the fake wasp nest didn't help, it was a fortunate coincidence.

re "Only two had even heard

re "Only two had even heard of this practice". this doesn't surprise me. i never cease to be amazed by the lack of "real world" knowledge so many experts have in their field. gee, that sounded a bit anti-intellectual. not intended that way. makes me wonder what kind of a response you'd get from the experts re the practice of hanging a clear bag of water in your doorway to keep flies out???

We have the yellow and black

We have the yellow and black wasps in abundance around our place. Numerous small nests. 5 years ago I used some paper bags and it seemed to help. The next year I bought one of the grey bags and put it up in our garden shed. The odd wasp would fly in and out again but no nests. This year I put another one up on our patio and we can sit out there and even eat without them bothering us. We have a lot of humming bird feeders and they do come around there. We are not wasp free all around our place but it does work in the garden shed and on the patio. I think the trick is to have them up before any nests are established. We did have a couple by the patio but I got rid of them and we have not had any nesting close by.

all summer i've had wasps

all summer i've had wasps under the eave of my house , two days ago i hung a grey plastic bag (full of air) under my patio umbrella . two days later the wasps under the eave are gone ~ much to my surprise.

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